Truth from the grave: SPD and genealogy solve Seattle Center cold case murder from 1967

SEATTLE — A murder case which spanned nearly 52 years with few solid leads has become the oldest known murder case solved by a genealogy profile. Seattle police say a crime-scene DNA and a genealogical databank helped them find the man who raped and killed a woman at Seattle Center in the summer of 1967.

The body of 20-year-old Susan Galvin was found in an elevator in a Seattle Center parking garage after she didn't show up for her overnight job in the records room for Seattle Police on July 9th, 1967.

Seattle Detective Rolf Norton said the murder of one of the department’s workers made the case personal for investigators. "I think everyone here who worked on this case thought a lot about Susan Galvin," Norton said. "Everyone was hopeful that someday we'd come to this end."

Norton said for more than 51 years, every lead in Galvin's murder case went cold. Galvin spent a lot of her free time at Seattle Center, and was seen with a clown named "Punchy" in the hours she was last seen at where the Seattle Center Armory is now, but decades later, the man working as a clown was ruled out as a suspect.

Norton took the case over three years ago, and he wondered if her clothes--which were still preserved as evidence--might contain the killer's DNA. Lab tests proved his hunch was right.

While a genealogy lab connected with the PBS show “Finding Your Roots” searched for the person hiding behind that DNA profile, Norton hoped to close the case for Galvin's seven siblings, who are now scattered across the world.

Scroll down to continue reading

More news from KIRO 7

"I guess when I look at her picture, I think of them," he said. "I think of her mother and father and just this horrible loss that snatched her away in a shockingly evil act."

The DNA matched a local family, and Detective Norton took a search warrant to a Tukwila cemetery, where he exhumed the body of a man who died in 1987 and had never been regarded as a suspect.

DNA proved that Frank Wypych, a security guard--who may have worked at Seattle Center--was the man who raped and killed Susan Galvin when he was 26 years old.

SPD found out Wypych was arrested in 1971 for larceny and in 1975 later for impersonating a police officer, making traffic stops while armed with a gun.

But Wypych took the secret of Susan Galvin to his grave.

"We're not able to punish him with incarceration but history will hold him accountable," said Norton. "We know he is the murderer of Susan Galvin and that will be his defining characteristic."

Comments on this article